While backpacking and building her website development company, West Des Moines businesswoman Colleen Kinsey was shaken by the lack of opportunities women face in developing countries. She was overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness that permeated each location she visited.

She decided to do something about it. Here in our corner of the world, you can, too.

While the issues may not be exactly the same, the power of mentoring can have just as big of an impact on women in our community. Mentoring can redirect the trajectory of a woman’s career and her life, not to mention helping our economy. According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 58 percent since 2007, compared with only a 12 percent increase in the number of overall businesses. Total employment in women-owned businesses rose 21 percent in the same time frame, compared with a drop of 0.8 percent in all businesses. There is still work to be done as women-owned business employment makes up just 8 percent of the total private sector workforce.

We need to be deliberate about this. By helping even one woman, we help all women. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Seek opportunities to help women improve their skills, abilities and confidence. Do this inside your workplace or through external relationships you develop within the community of businesswomen.

  • Nurture your network. Networking is a vital activity for aspiring women leaders. Let it be known that you’re open to providing feedback and coaching. The more mentoring conversations you have, the bigger your network to nurture becomes.

  • Be intentional about advocating for those in your network. Open doors, make connections, ask for favors on their behalf.

You can do this one woman at a time or think bigger. Six years ago, four local women (including one of this article’s co-authors, Carole) envisioned a "breakfast club" dedicated to cross-generational mentorship and leadership among women. Within two years, MOIsson was bursting at the seams with 50 members strong and was forced to limit new joiners. 

There is an enormous need for women to support other women. So why not start your own group? What’s stopping you?

Back to our story about local businesswoman Colleen Kinsey. After her travels across the world, she got serious about this business of supporting other women.

When Colleen realized she could personally make an impact in women's lives, the mission of Kinseyco was born. Kinseyco strategically hires creative experts from around the world, creating equal opportunities for women to earn a sustainable income using their technology skills. 

Today, her virtual team of skilled creatives resides in seven countries and they are pursuing their passions and improving their lives and the security of their families.

We can all follow Kinseyco’s example in our own way.

You can start your own efforts by participating in a regional Mentoring for Women event on Thursday, April 18. Nineteen affiliate chambers from across Des Moines will be hosting numerous networking and professional development events. To participate and attend, click hereor check the website of your local chamber of commerce for more information. Perhaps we will get to meet you at the events in West Des Moines or Pleasant Hill!

Carole Chambers is the president and CEO of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.Sara Kurovski is the director of United Way of Central Iowa’s Tocqueville Society and the mayor of Pleasant Hill.